Please remember in your prayers Dr. James McEnaney ’52, a former St. Thomas Alumni Association board member and past winner of the association’s Monsignor James Lavin Award.
McEnaney died Saturday in Wayzata after living most of his adult life in Owatonna, where he served as a physician for more than four decades.
An enthusiastic and unabashed St. Thomas booster, McEnaney graduated from St. Thomas in 1952 with a history degree and returned to Owatonna after finishing medical school at St. Louis University. The McEnaneys are a four-generation St. Thomas family; his father attended St. Thomas, four of his seven children are alumni and three grandchildren are alumni.
McEnaney served on the alumni board and the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center Board of Advisers. He frequently attended alumni events, including reunions, concerts and First Friday luncheons, as well as St. Thomas football and basketball games. He received the Monsignor James Lavin Award in 2011 for volunteer service to the alumni association.
“Father Lavin’s legacy to me is being prayerful and helpful to others, to concentrate on what you’re doing, and that there’s joy in life,” McEnaney said when he received the award. As for being a physician, he said, you “have to understand people and be gentle when they are facing problems. Compassion is important; you have to be passionate about being compassionate.”
Retired journalism professor Dave Nimmer, who wrote and narrated a video about McEnaney for the St. Thomas Day awards event, called the Lavin award winner a kind gentleman who truly was always “joyous” about life.
“He’s got a quick smile, an ever-present handshake and a willing ear – for an old friend or a newcomer he just met at the Homecoming football game,” Nimmer wrote in The Scroll in 2011. “When he grabs your hand, he looks you in the eye, repeats your name and focuses his attention. He’s as good at the meet-and-greet at an alumni affair as Hubert Humphrey was at a DFL county picnic.”
Last November, St. Thomas dedicated McEnaney Terrace outside the Summit Avenue entrance to the Anderson Student Center in appreciation for his support of the university.
A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph Catholic Church, 512 Elm St., Owatonna. Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Brick-Meger Funeral Home, 1630 Austin Road, Owatonna, and at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the church. You can read his Owatonna People’s Press news obituary here.